Errors in Cookbooks

Lists of mistakes in the kitchen:

Such lists usually are written to help the hapless home cook and don’t mention problems with recipes, writers and publishers:

  • Truly bad recipes
    • with philosphical or ideological agenda. I am not a fan of earnest approach of the “Small Planet” recipes.
    • promoting demand for devices or ingredients. Some require obscure ingredients or follow culinary trends into blind alleys.
  • Poor recipes -dubious ingredient ideas or planning by the recipe writer
  • Inadequate instruction.
  • Serious errors – There a references to such errors in printed and broadcast stories, most of which were ephemeral. Some address a famous restaurant recipe that does not replicate – the famous Chocolate Nemesis is cited in a 2019 piece by Felicity Cloake in the Guardian, Cookbook errors: recipes for disaster.

More on serious errors. Quotes from Marion Burros’s 1997 NY Times classic column:

The prevalence of errors in cookbooks is the publishing world’s dirty little secret. The problem is likely to get worse as an industry mired in economic doldrums resorts to cost-cutting, practically guaranteeing less editing and testing before publication.

….

”Book publishing contracts are very specific,” said Sydny Miner, the cookbook editor for Simon & Schuster. ”Publishers don’t have any way to amortize testing of recipes, so the responsibility falls on the author. We take it on faith that the recipes have been tested.”

….

Generally, mistakes in cookbooks come to light when they are so egregious that someone following them might be injured. Or if a book riddled with errors was written by a particularly well-known author. Julee Rosso’s ”Great Good Food” (Crown, 1993) was lambasted from coast to coast for its errors.

What book publishers don’t tell you is that they view errors as almost routine. ”Every line in a recipe is an opportunity for a mistake,” Ms. Miner said. ”They can be made by the author, the editor, the copy editor, the typesetter. I don’t think you can expect perfection.”

….

Writing recipes is a skill. Accuracy is obviously essential, but there is an equally important need to write directions clearly. Not everyone has the knack. ”Cookbook writing is very tough,” Ms. Jones said. ”You have to write for beginners and advanced cooks.” And there is an additional problem. ”There are a lot more dummy cooks than there used to be.”

Marion Burros, Cookbook Follies: Recipes that Fail, NY Times 1997-09-17

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